Cramer Asks Readercon to Investigate Age Discrimination Charge

Kathryn Cramer announced on Facebook that she has asked the Readercon board to investigate whether its program organizers engaged in age discrimination while culling their program participants list and violated the convention’s own Code of Conduct.

Several older white male writers who have been on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook that they were notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. The wording of the notice sparked resentment —

Allen Steele’s reaction was typical:

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

Whether writers/editors/artists who have been on a convention’s program in the past are owed the courtesy of being formally notified that they are not going to be on the current year’s program, or a con should let silence speak for itself, is worthy of discussion in its own right, however, Readercon made the former choice.

Even more important than the careless language of the letter (“PASTPRO”), some writers who received it say they suspect that Readercon’s effort to churn its roster of panelists has been done entirely at the expense of older writers.

A few days ago Jeffrey A. Carver added his name to the list of writers who have gotten the letter: “Readercon Says, ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!’”

I worried I was getting old when I turned 50 and started getting mail from AARP. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I suddenly became eligible for senior discounts. (No, that can’t be right. My parents were seniors, not me!) And now…

Readercon, once one of my favorite conventions, has decided that—well, let’s let them tell it in their own words: “You won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29. We’re deeply grateful to you for your years of participation at Readercon… but…” But so long, and thanks for all the fish!

They go on to say that they’re making room for fresh, young writers—which, if I thought that were the real reason, would at least be understandable. The truth, of course, is that Readercon has always been welcoming to new writers. I was one myself once, and Readercon always gave me a place at the table, as they did others. In fact, one of the things I liked about it was the yeasty mix of writers of all kinds, all ages, genders, creeds, etc. It made for great conversations. I guess the newer team of organizers are aiming for a new shape for their demographics. Either that, or they think they’re comping too many memberships to program participants.

I’m not the only one to receive this letter, of course. A number of older, white male writers (including my friend Craig Shaw Gardner) have received the same email. I don’t know if any female writers have received it or not. I’d be interested in knowing. (Update: I’ve received a secondhand report that a woman-writer friend of mine, also in my age group, got a similar boot to the backside.)

Kathryn Cramer tried to bring the matter to a head and tweeted Readercon a question —

Cramer also criticized a comment left on FB by Readercon program chair Emily Wagner:

…Speaking as the widow of a Readercon 13 GoH, I take exception to your complaints about past program participants’ “longevity.” You may find this whole matter “hilarious” (as per screen shot). I do not. Readercon has a code of conduct. I suggest you read it. And if you still think it is hilarious that you have given offense to many of the writers you have written such things to, and if you still think other peoples’ impression that you are engaging in age discrimination is hilarious, then I suggest you politely submit your resignation to the Readercon committee and find another hobby.

(This page lists 150 program participants from the 2017 Readercon – how Wagner’s 700 figure relates to that is unclear.)

Cramer has made a public request that the Readercon Board get involved.

I have just sent the following letter to info@readercon.org: To the ReaderCon Board:

In light of letters from Emily Wagner, writing as program Chair, recently received by older writers and professionals disinviting them from future participation on the ReaderCon program based their “longevity”, offering a discount code of “pastpro,” I formally request that the Board open an inquiry into whether Emily Wagner has committed age discrimination and whether she has, in the process, violated ReaderCon’s published Code of Conduct as pertains to age. Since Emily Wagner also sits on the Board, it would be appropriate for her to recuse herself from this inquiry.

I further request that the ReaderCon board publicly release the age demographics of the list of people to whom such letters were sent. And further, should these demographics demonstrate that all or nearly all such letters were sent to writers over age 50, I request that Emily Wagner be removed as Program Chair of ReaderCon and removed from the ReaderCon Board.

Ms. Wagner has posted on Facebook that she finds these allegations of age discrimination on her part “hilarious.” Age discrimination is not hilarious.

Further, should the Board determine that age discrimination has, in fact, taken place – which is to say that all or almost all of those disinvited are over 50 – I request that the Board take appropriate action to remedy the situation.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer

Several other well-known writers have added their protests. Peter Watts ended a comment on the subject:

Readercon, you suck.

Barry Longyear chimed in:

So, the Readercon “Dump-the Old” program is still in effect. It makes me think there ought to be two new categories in the Hugo Awards at the World SF Con: Best Science Fiction Convention, and a booby prize for that convention committee deemed as “doing the absolute least to promote science fiction and fellowship surrounding the literature of science fiction.” Designs for the Fucktard Award are currently being solicited.

David Gerrold made a more substantial comment on Cramer’s announcement:

About ten years ago or so, the Writers Guild of America won a major lawsuit on age discrimination. The studios paid out $70 million, some of which was distributed to writers who had proven they had been discriminated against, the rest to establish protections for the future.

Age discrimination is real — it’s pernicious, it’s vile, and in venues where there are laws prohibiting it, it is illegal.

For it to occur in the science fiction community is appalling. This is a community that has prided itself on inclusion. The rule in fandom is that “the ceiling constitutes an introduction.” That is, we’re all in the same room, we’re all fans, we’re here to have fun celebrating what we love.

So for any convention to knowingly violate the trust of the community, to disinvite the experienced and respected members of that community — this doesn’t just punish the authors, it punishes the fans who want to hear from those authors.

I’ve always wanted to attend a Readercon. I’ve only heard good things about Readercon — but now I suspect that I am too old to be considered worthy to contribute to Readercon.

I hope that this is a momentary glitch that the Board of Directors will address quickly. Otherwise, Readercon’s good reputation will be soiled for a long time to come

92 thoughts on “Cramer Asks Readercon to Investigate Age Discrimination Charge

  1. So am I to understand that the viewpoint of writers who had been previously invited is that ReaderCon has no right what-so-ever to invite new writers to attend and that they must always be invited? That’s a load of bullshit.

    This is the sort of entitlement that the Puppies engage in…

  2. One wonders whether Ursula LeGuin or Octavia Butler would have received “PASTPRO” notifications, were they still with us.

  3. If you’ve not attended as a guest before regardless of age, it would not seem that you are not a past pro. At least that’s my interpretation of what they did.

  4. I’m curious what the stripe color on the Readercon badge is supposed to signify? Thanks in advance.

  5. Oh, FFS.

    It’s obvious that, in an effort to have something other than the same panels with the same people on them every year, they’re rotating their invited guests. People who were previously on pro panels in (follow along with me now, here’s where it gets tricky) past Readercons still get offered a discount code… PASTPRO.

    Yeah, what a horrific hate crime.

  6. Writing this kind of letters is extremely hard. You tend to underestimate how much more knowledge you have from previous discussions and not understanding that those not privy to those discussions will interpret the writing in another way.

    So I have sympathy for Readercon.

    But I also have sympathy for those that received the letter. And now again a lot of valuable time and energy goes to discuss wording in the smallest detail. And water is wet.

  7. Maybe. If I turn my head and squint, it looks like a not-unreasonable goal. Who wouldn’t want to give new writers an opportunity, right?

    This approach, on the other hand, makes me wonder if anyone gave it even a moment’s sanity check. I’m having a hard time thinking of any way it could have been handled that would have been more offensively clumsy, even if there wasn’t any active malice in it.

  8. Gareth-Michael Skarka: …Yeah, what a horrific hate crime.

    The one sure way to multiply the number of people pissed off at a con is for a committee member to be dismissive of their complaints.

  9. But Nisi Shawl, the guest of honor, is 63, and the Readercon website’s landing page contains quotes from Samuel Delany, 75, James Patrick Kelly, 66, and Yves Maynard, 53, that they seem proud to post. So maybe, just maybe, we can take these people at their word that there is no age discrimination here, but a true effort to work in newer voices.

    But that doesn’t feed the outrage, does it?

  10. Jon F. Zeigler says This approach, on the other hand, makes me wonder if anyone gave it even a moment’s sanity check. I’m having a hard time thinking of any way it could have been handled that would have been more offensively clumsy, even if there wasn’t any active malice in it.

    They might’ve given them free membership but I don’t know the finances of that Con nor how many former guests would’ve needed to top the balance sheet to know if that was feasible. It’s a relatively small Con so the 25% discount might’ve have been all they could afford.

    I remember a local Celtic Music festival where the organizers decided not to have the headliners back for a fifth straight year. The social media lit up with complaints from their supporters that they’d never go near the festival again. Attendance that year was slightly up.

  11. I suspect PASTPRO was meant to abbreviate “Past Program Participant”, but the more obvious reading is quite unfortunate. I also suspect that the 700 figure is people on the invitation list, including many who haven’t attended in years.

    I’m not sure how you recover from failing to update your list in years without inadvertently removing more older people. That is a good reason to update more regularly. This is a very difficult thing to explain without giving offense, especially as people are likely to feel upset no more how well you say it. It is still better to say it well, and to respond sympathetically when people express their feelings about being dropped.

  12. As an alternative, their original letter could have explicitly stated that the authors would be invited to participate again in subsequent years. That would have made it clear that they were creating a larger rotation group of authors rather than putting the old horses out to pasture.

    Regards,
    Dann
    In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. – Thomas Jefferson

  13. Where else have we seen someone get all upset because he thought he was entitled to be on the program every single year? Didn’t he claim it was discrimination too?

  14. GiantPanda: Gack, my nightmare typo actually made it into a post. Appertain yourself your favorite beverage for saving the day!

  15. If I read their site correctly, they’ve got around eight hundred paying attendees and one hundred fifty guests each year. That’s a very impressive ratio of guests to attendees.

  16. I’m wondering which bit of their CoC Kramer feels they’ve broken. I mean, it’s quite a clever argument to bring in the CoC but as far as I can tell it doesn’t actually mention age discrimination in the sense alleged here, only the more active sense of slurs/derogatory comments. (Mind you, you could say that’s an inadequacy in the CoC and something a con should avoid whether written down or not)

    I rather doubt that ReaderCon will be prepared to release an analysis of what they’ve done, but given the level of upset I think they need to make a more measured statement than they’ve done so far.

    (FYI the Mark a few comments above isn’t me – accept no imitations, look for the kitteh!)

  17. Some people are being dismissive, but that letter was a blunder and the response quite literally the worst way to respond to a brewing crisis. Whether it has merit or not, the ineptitude of Readercon in presenting this decision has opened up a legitimate reason to question the process which was used to select people to uninvite. If they were lazy (which the botched process helps suggest), they could have taken a fast and dirty approach by culling people by a simple metric like age, which intended or not, is in volition of their COC.

    The way this has unfolded, I don’t think it is unfair of the people who were disinvited to feel they deserve some transparency in how that process took place and what metrics were considered in making cuts to the invite list.

  18. If they are inviting new guests (i.e., people who are new to their conference or new to writing/selling in the genre) who are over 50, it would go a long way to showing that they are not discriminating by age to say so. Age is not equal to longevity if longevity in this case means “has been a guest at Readercon for 20 years straight” but people who are decidedly over 50 who had only been attending a year or two or perhaps not at all were nonetheless invited. Anyway, whatever the reality, the person who responded should’ve pointed out what the actual criteria were for getting de-invited. Not just “longevity,” but explaining what that means to them and how the cuts were determined.

  19. I may be missing something (being no spring chicken myself), but while older professionals may be more likely to have been long time repeat panelists, it would be possible for someone in their late 20’s to have been a long time panelist, and someone in their 60’s to be a first time pro.

    Is there any evidence that this was a “no old professionals, only young professionals” filter applied? That is, is there any reason to believe that Readercon isn’t doing what they say they are, and that this is age discrimination rather than simply trying to rotate the set of people who are given free memberships in return for panel participation?

  20. They are entitled to do what they want. However, I think it’s sort of a shoddy way to run a community that’s built on trust and good will. No one is complaining about their making efforts to include new writers. Readercon has *always* welcomed new writers, and should continue to do so. The mix of the new and the old has always been a strength of the con. If the intention was to signal a kind of crop rotation, that was not mentioned in the letter.

    One of the things that I personally found insulting was the invitation to come on down for $5 off the early registration fee (*not* 25% off as reported above), but only if I registered early. This certainly conveyed a sense of, “Well, your contributions in the past weren’t worth very much. Here’s a Walgreens coupon for your troubles.)

    I’ve no intention of becoming involved in the con’s internal politics. I’ve simply reported my experience, and others have reported theirs. Folks can do as they like with it. I think I’m done.

  21. Kathryn Cramer has made some cogent arguments, to which ReaderCon could potentially make equally cogent responses if, as has been stated, all that’s intended is to change things up and bring in different guests.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a demographic breakdown based on age of those who were sent the notice. Age discrimination is still discrimination. Being dismissive of Allen Steele is one thing. Being dismissive of Cramer’s questions is quite another. Giving short shrift to someone based on age is no less egregious than doing so based on race, gender, sexual orientation or identity.

    Whoever wrote that notice caused the problem, simply by mentioning longevity. They should have just said they wanted some new panel participants to change things up and left it at that.

    Here in 4524, we can surf to what used to be Denver.

  22. “The one sure way to multiply the number of people pissed off at a con is for a committee member to be dismissive of their complaints.”

    If you don’t have a law named after you yet, Mike, I hereby nominate this be forever known as “Glyer’s Law”, and concoms the world over get informed of it *at once*, having seen this happen over and over and over again.

    Because no matter what Readercon’s initial intent was, the follow-up comment was a case of “Open mouth, insert feet, go jogging, and while you’re at it shoot both your foot and your credibility.”

    (I admit, sometimes when I see one of these, I have a “Thank Gods *we* didn’t make *that* mistake…” moment.)

  23. @Mark
    But Nisi Shawl, the guest of honor, is 63, and the Readercon website’s landing page contains quotes from Samuel Delany, 75, James Patrick Kelly, 66, and Yves Maynard, 53, that they seem proud to post.

    The presence of older guests on the current roster doesn’t preclude the use of age in culling the old one. This is like saying “But some of my best friends are black/Jewish/gay/whatever!”

    If the list of people who got the letter skews disproportionately older, and this year’s guest list is disproportionately younger, that’s worth knowing, and it’s a fair question for Cramer to ask.

  24. Bill: If the list of people who got the letter skews disproportionately older, and this year’s guest list is disproportionately younger, that’s worth knowing, and it’s a fair question for Cramer to ask.

    This would be an expected result of attempting to rotate out long-time participants with newer participants, and in and of itself is not significant. Of course they will be disproportionate, since “long-term” in itself requires a certain amount of age.

    But boy howdy, is that notification letter one of the most tone-deaf cases of foot-in-mouth I’ve ever seen — and the Facebook response by the person who wrote it even more so. If I were Readercon, I would not allow any further communication from that person to anyone outside the concom without it first being reviewed and approved by other members of the committee who have a great deal more common sense and communications skills.

  25. The ‘hilarious’ comment made perfect sense to me. Did anyone ask the committee involved for any explanations? Add that to the apparent tendency of people to just write on Facebook and Twitter and send it off without thinking.
    I actually just figured that the decisions were made by people who looked at various names and didn’t recognize them or personally didn’t care for their work–especially if they(the people making said decisions) were, shall we say. younger.
    But that may be the result of watching too many You-tube videos of young people being asked to ID music from the 70s and watching them say “Who? Never heard of them.”

  26. The problem with disproving an age-discrimination case, is that long-term guest membership can easily parallel age. That is, if they only looked at guests who had say, 20-30 years of membership, than that will probably skew into the 50s and above.

    Also let’s face it. For a greying hobby like literary SF conventions, the vast majority of participants are going to skew older. It’s quite possible they could have done a random selection of members and gotten say, 80-90% over age 50.

    Now if say, they did this at an anime con and got a collection of only people over age 50, that would be something. But for a literary con? I don’t think even the results skewing older necessarily means anything.

  27. //Age did not enter into the deliberations when we were making these admittedly tough choices.//

    This is a really interesting example of a systemic bias. Let’s imagine they DO invite people who are older but relatively new to Readercon and also…let’s imagine there’s somebody disinvited whose career started really, really early and they’ve been participating in Readercon programming for a long time but they are actually quite young…then the policy could still be biased against older writers. Readercon doesn’t need to intend to discriminate to actually discriminate. Looking at their process it is hard to see how it wouldn’t impact older writers more.

    So the question isn’t whether it is discriminatory based on age (it almost certainly is) but whether it is justified *despite* that. For example, if they avoid doing this (or something similar) what other biases would they have?

    There is no perfectly fair way of distributing a finite set of things to a group of people that are greater than the set of things. It’s why you can’t just act without the intention of discriminating against a group but instead why you have to actively look to see how different groups are represented.

    As things stand I don’t know if the underlying policy was a good move done badly or a bad move.

    That letter though – ouch, not well done at all.

  28. Program needs to change every year or it gets stale. And you need to change program participants, at least some of them, to do that. And 700 people on your invite list probably is ridiculously large for a 900-person convention.

    There’s no question that, if you want to get rid of people, rotating out the ones who’ve been regular participants is the thing to do; they probably have said most of what they’re going to say, and giving them a break for a year or two is reasonable. And yes, that demographic is going to skew toward cis white male over 50.

    But you phrase it as “keeping your program fresh,” not as “we want pros who aren’t cis white males over 50.” You give a reasonable discount, not a token. You specifically state that they will remain on your list, if they opt to do so. And to people who aren’t regulars? Just ghost them, really, and explain it if they ask. Honestly, you aren’t that important to them if they aren’t on your program every year (or nearly so). And maybe if they do inquire, offer the discount (no reason not to keep that rate alive for a while).

  29. I feel I have to weigh in, if only because I was mentioned in earlier comments, though the points I wanted to make when I read this item have mostly already been made by others. Readercon has long been “my” convention, as the one American con I would always attend (last year being the first exception in three decades). In all this time, the impression I always had was that Readercon’s list of invites was intended to grow, year after year. And as Steve Davidson put it, when something lasts this long, it’s no longer an entitlement, it’s a relationship.

    This growth cannot be sustained indefinitely; I can well believe that Readercon is forced to change its practice, because the field as a whole is growing, because it’s important to have new voices join, but the number of panel slots cannot be grown at the same rate. So yeah, it’s logical to rotate out some guests in order to bring others in.

    Many people have pointed out that it’s not so much what is proposed, as how it’s been phrased. I was invited this year again, so it’s easy for me to pretend I wouldn’t have been offended had I received the disinvitation. But these things are not fully rational matters. If I’d been disinvited, I might have yearned for some reassurance that Readercon still loved me, still wanted me to come, that I still mattered to it.

    I’ve been trying to find a good way to say I hope this crisis resolves without too much damage — which I’ll admit is pretty selfish on my part. But I’ve been in a relationship with Readercon for nearly 30 years, I still love it, so I just want things to get better. I think Readercon needs to make a statement that acknowledges that feelings were hurt, that the con’s intent was not expressed clearly enough. That won’t fix everything, but it’ll be a start.

  30. It’s been made clear to me elsewhere that I have no grasp of current details — so would several someones care to detail how the original message (as opposed to the followup) differs from what Baycon did (aside from Readercon not having (as far as I’ve seen from regular attendance) any JdA-class jerks in the population being furloughed)? ISTM that Baycon was clear(er?) about this being a furlough rather than a layoff, but I wouldn’t care to argue just how much so. I’m also of the opinion that ?demanding? somebody’s firing is not a good way to press any reasonable parts of one’s case, but that may be my belief that trying to work things through is more likely to work with most people than drawing hard lines (absent serious evidence that your opponent is immune to reason, which I don’t think anyone has here about the concom).

  31. Mark on February 23, 2018 at 1:15 pm said: So maybe, just maybe, we can take these people at their word that there is no age discrimination here, but a true effort to work in newer voices.

    But that doesn’t feed the outrage, does it?

    If this is true, and FWIW I think it is, one should try not to blast one’s foot off while working in newer voices. Nor fire off the second barrel when people complain about the way they deal with the aftermath.

  32. I have not been to Readercon, and I am not clear on some important details. What, exactly, does being “invited” mean? Are program participants given memberships? Other remuneration? Did Readercon have a standing invite list? If they did, then a letter explaining the lack of invite was not optional.

  33. Readercon has not disinvited people. It has told people they won’t be invited. I don’t agree with their actions but also don’t agree with what happened being twisted.

    That said, in answer to the first post no, people who’ve been on the program don’t have a sense of entitlement. And they are most certainly not against newer writers, or others, being on panels. I started to elaborate about that then cut it because it’s not relevant to the conversation at hand. Suffice to say that I’m sorry you’re of that impression; you’re missing a lot.

    But there are several things going on. One is that Readercon has already changed focus so drastically that people aren’t attending this year, or saying that they’re going to give it one more try. There’s a wider and wider view that the program has been slanted, that the depth of knowledge is being lost, as a result fewer people of that particular value are attending and a downward spiral.

    The use of “longevity” adds to this. What do they mean? People who’ve been on program for years and years? Writing/publishing/editing that long? Categorically ditching either is a serious mistake. Some people have remained on program every year because they always have something to contribute and are good on panels. People who’ve been in the business a long time likewise.

    The letter was unnecessary. All that needed was to add something carefully written to the Readercon Program page and remove one para. Instead they spent time pouring over a list choosing people based on some criteria and crafting an insulting letter. (Skip time spent with address labels, envelope stuffing, etc.).

    And insulting it was. Taking away the plausible deniability:

    “You’re a waste of space, retarding the growth of the community, have been around too long, and denying up and coming authors a chance. But we’ll give you $5 off your membership if you register now.” A later claim of not having space because they currently having 700 people is icing on the cake.

    I am very much in favor of conventions mixing it up and can think of several in particular that should. And I don’t look for insult. But there’s sending the letter in the first place and even with the most charitable of readings it pretty much says “Bugger off”. Given the resources she has to draw on, the other people on the program committee, she has no claim to ignorance or inexperience.

  34. ““You’re a waste of space, retarding the growth of the community, have been around too long, and denying up and coming authors a chance. But we’ll give you $5 off your membership if you register now.”
    […]
    And I don’t look for insult.”

    Could have fooled me.

  35. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a demographic breakdown based on age of those who were sent the notice.

    You are assuming that they have that information.

    I don’t work on Readercon, and have never even been to Readercon. But I have chaired several conventions, and worked on a significant number of other conventions, and have a significant number of friends who also work on conventions.

    I would be shocked if any conventions had that information. Certainly none of the local and regional ones that I have worked on kept people’s age on file. It’s simply not relevant to running the convention.

    And quite honestly, as a whole, fannish conventions suck at things like demographics. That’s why you always hear things about the “greying of fandom” with nothing to back it up except people’s personal impressions. At best, you end up with a mailing list – of actual addresses, if you’re really lucky, you’ll get email too.

  36. By way of contrast, a little insight into how Dragon Con handles this…

    They don’t have a “standing invite list.” If you’re a pro and you’re interested in being a guest, you fill out an application and wait to find out if you get accepted. This is true whether it’s your first year or your fifty-first. I mean, I’m sure they proactively recruit/invite their headliners, and it would make sense that people whose programming is popular don’t have trouble getting in – but it’s never guaranteed that an application will be approved.

    From this far future of 6507 A.D., that sounds like a pretty solid system. But then, it seems to me that if someone feels “entitled” to a “traditional” spot in programming at a convention, that’s probably a good sign that the lineup is stale and needs to be shaken up. I’ve been to conventions that don’t do that… it ain’t pretty. Same panels, year after year, featuring the same pros saying the same things… pretty soon, an average congoer starts to wonder if there’s any real point in showing up this year for another rerun.

    I ain’t sayin’ every pro goes into reruns – but as someone who was a fixture at certain conventions for a few years, it started to feel that way to me. I saw the same faces ask to play the same games, or maybe the latest variants on them, and it got hard to summon up the enthusiasm and inventiveness to do something new. In some ways, it was a relief when I bowed out.

  37. Hmm. Looking back at that last paragraph, maybe I should clarify that when I said “it started to feel that way to me” – that’s me saying that while holding a perennial role on staff, I started to feel that I was going stale.

  38. In one of the Facebook threads that Kathryn Cramer started on the Readercon guest list rearrangement, both Jon Del Arroz and L. Jagi Lamplighter have shown up, attempting to garner sympathy and, presumably, to show solidarity against PC-ness and SJW-dom.

    If those were their reasons, they did not get the desired result.

  39. @Elspeth: what change-of-focus do you see in Readercon? I admit to commonly missing subtleties in non-verbal communications, but as someone who’s been to every one I’m not seeing such a change in programming.

  40. . . chance. But we’ll give you $5 off your membership if you register now.”
    […]
    And I don’t look for insult.”

    Could have fooled me.

    And apparently I did. The point is that even I, who doesn’t look for insult, parsed the letter that way.

  41. Stacey on February 25, 2018 at 3:33 pm said:

    I don’t think cons normally ask, beyond child/adult membership. Certainly I don’t recall ever seeing a request for actual age on a membership form. (I’ve worked at-the-door registration for several conventions.)

  42. I don’t give a sterling silver rat’s patoot what DragonCon or any other parasitic for-profit commercial outfit does. What we need to ask is, what is The Fannish Thing to Do. And that must start with clear communication, in non-loaded words, responded to with a modicum of assumption of good faith (but not a suicidal level of same).

  43. Elspeth: what change-of-focus do you see in Readercon?

    The problem is that it’s vague enough to be difficult to describe. When comparing convention schedules more and more people have been saying “No, I won’t see you at Readercon, it’s changed too much.” One said “It’s like biting into an apple and discovering it’s gone soft”. The list of changes all shared some things but there were other examples as well. They were so basic I don’t remember them all. And I don’t want to: Readercon was one of my favorite conventions and I want to hold onto that memory when I can.

    One thing almost everyone mentioned was the public bathrooms, one labeled “gender neutral” and the other with the original signage of “Women’s Room”. The off-hand discrimination resulted in a number of angry jokes. Meanwhile some of the men, even some of the women, were uncomfortable enough that they walked a lot farther to use other bathrooms. When a staff member was asked s/he said, “Oh. I think that was for the consuite bathroom”. Which, according to a casual poll, would have made gender an issue,thus a number of people with a number different genders very uncomfortable. Obviously that sort of thing should be reported at the ‘gripe’ session. But people who tried that before were shut down. So what with dealer’s loadout, other people doing end-of-con stuff, and this seeming so typical it just wasn’t worth the time. Certainly there were other things, not related to gender, I remember this because was so specific, so unnecessary, and caused so much anger.

    I’ll see about comparing program schedules for you but had some difficulty finding them and naturally the formats change. I can’t make the needed block of time to go over them right now but will do so later.

  44. Elspeth, I’m not fully understanding. The problem was the lack of a men’s room in one area of the con where there was a women’s and neutral? But there were men’s rooms elsewhere? Probably would have been better to convert both of those rather than just one, yes.

    Personally I’m delighted to see gender-neutral bathrooms made available. It’s not easy to do with existing infrastructure.

  45. A writer I’d prefer not to name got disinvited from his local con last year after being a guest for several years and decided a nefarious agenda was afoot.

    John Norman did the same in 2001 after a Philcon disinvite, writing a screed for the ages.

    Maybe we’re a little too quick to rule out the possibility there was no agenda at work here, other than Readercon’s stated one: to let more newbies have a chance to be part of programming.

  46. Elspeth:

    “And apparently I did. The point is that even I, who doesn’t look for insult, parsed the letter that way.”

    You sure you aren’t looking for insult? Because your comment sure gave that impression to me. Even more when you seemed to think that gender neutral restrooms was something to find fault in and that it was reasonable to be angry about their existence.

  47. rcade: A writer I’d prefer not to name got disinvited from his local con last year after being a guest for several years and decided a nefarious agenda was afoot.

    If you’re referring to JDA, he’d been a guest for one year, and he wasn’t “disinvited” last year, because he hadn’t been invited to begin with.

    If you’re referring to someone else, how about a hint? 😉

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